I remember the first time I and my friends bolted together four wheels scrounged from a shopping cart and a wooden soapbox crate from the farmer’s market. I also remember the first time we took that crate-car to Middlesex Place Road in Pinetown, my home-town in Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa. It’s a road that runs for about a quarter of a mile, at a 60° angle, ending at the bottom with Winston Churchill Drive and a six-lane highway.
I remember the elemental joy of that first terrifying lurch as we went over the brow of the hill and took our feet off the asphalt. That world-slowing exhilaration is something that will never leave my memory bank. We hurtled down a road I was only six inches above, but in that moment, we were kings. Childhood is defined by moments of self-inflicted terror where the words, “this is going to be so cool” are often followed by the unsaid rule of childhood; “Don’t tell my Mom.” Oh, and obviously, “we’re going to die!”
Those were the fun days. Granted, they were the also the days of broken bones, near death collisions and head wounds, but they were ours and irreplaceable. Are we losing that?
At the VW Drive Day, held at the VW Financial Services building in Milton Keynes, I was very impressed with the set-up and the organisation of the entire event. A dozen or so bloggers and vloggers from different parts of the country had been invited to take a host of cars out for a drive, to share their thoughts, feelings and opinions on the different vehicles. Everyone has different tastes and we were all looking for and at different things, allowing VW to get a wide and honest scope of their cars, through a variety of lenses. All available through #VWBlogVlog
Over the course of the day, Jerome Smith and I drove almost every vehicle in the lot. From the Golf GTI to the Arteon I have to admit that I was lost in a sea of impressive mechanics and awesome choreographed machinery but when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.
Frankly put, all the brands under VW have attained a level of safety that has never been seen before. Today, driving a car is as safe for the driver, passengers and pedestrians as it has ever been and more and more technology is being created, invented and implemented to keep all involved out of harm’s way. This is absolutely essential and a brilliant step in the right direction, being crucial for the ongoing development of the industry, but it is also boring.
I can’t deny it; safety may be sexy but it is also boring. The GTI, the Arteon and the Tiguan are great cars, really, really great cars.
They drive well, they handle smoothly, the pedals are sensitive, the steering is powerful and they are flawlessly created machines, but just a bit samey. However, you should have seen my reaction when I climbed into the driver’s seat of the 1981 Mk1 Scirocco or the E-Golf.
The Scirocco Mk 1 has some groovy, heritage features which I touched on in the full review here Scirocco Review.
I’d forgotten about the cars I learnt to drive in. I don’t know how, but I had forgotten the Citi Golf that didn’t come with power steering and was already an old car in 2000, when I first slid behind the wheel. The Scirocco was the same, with no power steering and no easy handling. To get the clutch to work required a proper push from the entire leg, whereas to accelerate, you had to damn near floor the pedal. Howling under-steer and brakes that weren’t the sharpest in the world added to the experience and that’s when we discovered that this car had been kept in pristine working condition by the staff at VW.
This was a car that ruled in an era where there was an art or a trick to driving, where the car was an extension and you had to drive it as much with intuition as skill. I felt involved and thoroughly engaged when I was driving this beauty and that is something that I miss in modern cars. You don’t feel as involved as you did with the likes of the 1981 Scirocco.
This is not a quality that is completely lost. VW understands its industry and the people driving their cars very well. It understands what they want but also what they need and the E-Golf is a fine example of that.
I’ve never driven an electric car before and didn’t know what to expect, but this is the height of technological advancement. A first of an entire fleet of electric vehicles that VW is developing on their I.D concept car range, which includes city cars, minivans and ranges.
Firstly, electric cars are fast, powerful, terrifically efficient and silent. The Scirocco roared, while the E-Golf barely whispered but was quick with immediate torque. One of the things that we do like to discuss is how loud it is to drive a car and how easy it is to have a conversation that doesn’t involve shouting to be heard over an engine. The E-Golf is so silent that even whispers can be heard. The mechanical design of the car is different as well, so your driving style feels more evolved, basically in a ‘higher’ class.
As well as no engine noise there is a distinct lack of engine vibration, so driving along is as smooth as kayaking through water. It makes you think of the road in an entirely different fashion. It’s as safe as any other car VW have made, but there is something completely singular about how it drives and it is going to be interesting to see the evolution of driver expectation when this becomes the norm.
The Lost Executive final word
I fear that the middle children of VW, which are the breed of modern cars including saloons, hatchbacks and pickups, suffer from the same inclusion in an era where vehicles are naturally safe before they are fun. I’m not endorsing unsafe vehicles, I cannot stress that enough, but I really do miss my soapbox racing.